I am writing a dissertation on the sense of agency. I am particularly focused on cases from psychopathology in which the experience of agency is in some sense illusory. I also work on the philosophical conception of willpower and its relation to the sense of agency and mental disorder. More generally, I am interested in theorizing about mental illness with an aim toward adding new empirical data and philosophical perspectives to existing debates within philosophy of mind and action.
Anorexia Nervosa: Illusion in the Sense of Agency
(forthcoming in Mind & Language)
Click here to download a preprint draft of the article.
Abstract: The aim of this paper is to provide a novel analysis of anorexia nervosa (AN) in the context of the sense of agency literature. I first show that two accounts of anorexia nervosa that we ought to take seriously—i.e., the first personal reports of those who have experienced it firsthand as well as the research that seeks to explain anorexic behavior from an empirical perspective—appear to be thoroughly in tension with one another in their descriptions of anorexic actions. Rather than proceeding at this point by way of disregarding anorexic testimony as meaningless or insincere, I instead offer a positive account of the sense of agency in anorexia nervosa that renders these two depictions compatible. The resultant picture of anorexic behavior is one that accommodates current empirical findings while also providing valuable insight into how it is that anorexics can sincerely report feeling fully in control over their food restriction.
Addiction and Willpower: Solving the Mismatch Problem
In this paper I challenge the common assumption that chronic addiction is in some way connected to, or is partially caused by, deficient willpower. I do this by highlighting the fact that standard drug addiction shares deep neurological and behavioral similarities with anorexia nervosa, a disorder commonly associated with above-average willpower. This in turn generates what I call the "mismatch problem" between the commonsense notion of willpower and addiction broadly construed. I resolve this problem by arguing that the phenomenology that is often tied to the exercise one's will in the case of addictive desires has been misidentified by philosophers. After providing my own positive account of the phenomenology in question, I suggest a way forward in developing a theory of chronic addiction in light of the findings from the paper. This project overlaps with and can be seen as a further development of my paper on the sense of agency and anorexia.